This is a horrible issue. It has raised itself in Canada, again, with the suicide of another teen.
One Federal politician, an NDP who was bullied wants a national policy.
We cannot prevent someone from robbing a bank: we cannot predict that they will do so, nor can we punish or give them consequences for thinking about an action. Prevention does not work.
I worked for a large school board with a clear policy, and many protocols and strategies for coping with bullying, and much education for teachers. We know that most schools are the front lines for bullying. Bullies bully their peers in person and online. Principal bullying is common. Workplace bullying is similarly common. I was bullied by two principals.
Unfortunately, by the time policy translates into real action, there is dilution and inertia. The breakdown happens when bystanders do not tell teachers, teachers do not act, principals are afraid to act fearing repercussions from parents or superintendents or the data from suspensions and how it appears that they might have failed. The silent bullying that goes unreported does not hurt them.
I spent 25 years listening to my students. I fully encouraged them to treat one another with respect and to report it if this did not happen. How many time does a bully report to a teacher? Not very often. How many times would a peer come to me - often.
We did role play, with bullies acting the part of the victims. It worked rather well. I have many activities I used in my repertoire. We talked about respect, we talked about the fact that if you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem. I would have students write me Aide de Memoirs about an event, in which they told me what they heard or saw, and then we could deal with the issue. This was particularly effective when two students bullied another into stealing an item off of my desk that they knew would get them into trouble. They also bullied my occasional teacher. Again, they wrote me about what they saw and heard. My principal, unfortunately, was ineffective and blamed me for actually serving consequences since none came from administration. This was one of the principals who bullied me in public, in the staff room, in the office. I reported it to my union. The Health and Safety Officer, after I reported and documented the bullying, told me we could work together. He then told me, a month later, that since it wasn't harassment on the basis of gender, age or race, policy and procedures did not apply. This principal also bullied the Family Council Chair.
In terms of Internet bullying, this is where the parent, as well as the teacher, plays utmost importance.
Parents MUST know their child's passwords, all of the e-mail addresses, and where they go on the computer.
If a child in grade 4 has an older sibling, or friends who will show him/her the way, they will access places where we don't want them to go. The wise parent checks the browser history, monitors their child's use, and prevents bullying. Young kids become older kids who will bully.
Kids with Yahoo or gmail secret e-mail addresses are subject to many spam messages about enlarging their members, or getting drugs. Kids are unafraid of going to such links, but could be seriously harmed by predators. The emotional toll has been researched.
Then, in the classroom, there must be frank discussions about Internet use. I taught one student, whose parents did not understand the Internet, to report the bullying to the Internet Service Provider. This resolved the problem.
We are all responsible. But new laws will not solve this issue. Those who are depressed will take their lives, parents and friends, teachers, must reach a child before this happens. This, then, becomes a mental health issue. We know that there isn't enough infrastructure around mental health in schools. There is much we can do aout bullying.
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